Your Mental Game and Performance Slumps

Focus in Sports

Develop a Growth Mindset

Are you going through a long-term slump? Are you holding back or playing tentatively due to your performance slump?

Slumps are aggravating, frustrating and unnerving. Sometimes, a slump in one area of your game affects your entire game, further compounding the issue.

For example, you are in the middle of a long slump and each mistake in competition causes you to call into question your abilities as an athlete. You fear continued misses, losses and mistakes.

You don’t want to embarrass yourself or be the reason your team loses. So, you shy away from opportunities… You stop taking shots… You don’t want to take center stage… You perform tentatively.

You overthink everything before, during and after a competition or game. You break down every aspect of your performance and criticize yourself harshly. You lose confidence, sell yourself short and think, “I am not a good athlete.”  You make a case against yourself by highlighting every mistake you ever made which keeps you stuck in a rut.

How can you break out of a slump?

You can shorten the time you are stuck in a performance slump by changing your focus…

Change Your Focus

First, focus on the process, not the outcome. A basketball player should still shoot without thinking about the results of the shot… A hockey player in a slump should continue to look for opportunities to score instead of fearing missing a shot.

Second, focus on other ways you can affect the game or contribute to your team. A basketball player in a shooting slump can look for ways to contribute to his team defensively. A hockey player in a performance slump can help raise the energy of his team by being aggressive on the boards.

Finding ways to contribute to your team will improve your confidence and relieve some of the anxiety that contributes to your performance slump.

Golden State Warriors forward Kelly Oubre started out the 2020-21 season in a slump: 0-for-17 from 3-point range and 0-for-31 on non-dunk attempts.

Teammate Steph Curry, one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history, has been in slumps himself and had a bit of advice for Oubre and other players in slumps. 

CURRY: “No matter how [Oubre] shoots the ball, he can always find another way to impact the game and eventually, he’s going to figure it out… He can’t lose confidence. He has to take those shots. But he also has to impact the game in other areas that athletically he can do… that’s all you ask for from a guy going through a shooting situation like this until he turns it around.”

Furthermore, Curry talked about the need to continue to look for open shots and take your shots without overthinking. 

CURRY: “The last thing you can do is just stop shooting no matter how frustrated you get.”

Breaking out of a slump requires commitment to a growth mindset. A competitive mindset encompasses looking for ways to contribute, making the most of your opportunities and continuing to push forward no matter the circumstances.

A growth mindset helps you maintain stable confidence along with the knowledge that you will get back on track soon enough.

How to Break Out of a Slump:

First, don’t start each game by defining yourself as being in a slump, as this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead of worrying about parts of your game that are not working, identify 1-2 ways that you can contribute to your team. For example, you might focus on helping your team create scoring opportunities, setting the tone by hustling, etc.

Look at every game as a new opportunity for success and growth, rather than a continuation of your slump.

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